Washington — While disagreeing most emphatically with those suave European political leaders who are so reluctant to discomfit Saddam Hussein with bombs overhead, I can sympathize with them. To be a prime minister or a president or a chancellor in any of the European countries, especially any of the western European countries, is even better than being a tourist on a thousand-dollar-a-day budget. The Europols live the good life day and night: wine with lunch, champagne with dinner, and posh pageants in between. Europe’s capitals are the most relaxing places on earth, and the Europols have been relaxing there for years, while Washington supplies the military security.
Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair is the exception, but his vow to stand by us in effecting a “regime change” in Baghdad is not surprising. British leaders have perceived the danger of threats from foreign brutes since Winston Churchill’s forlorn warnings were validated by Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939. Since then, there has not been a wimp living at Number 10 Downing Street, with one or two question marks. Britain is not, of course, the lotus land that, say, France is. It does not have the soft breezes, the clear skies, the café society. For decades the rest of Europe has existed in suspended animation. Tom Wolfe has suggested that the day will come when much of the Continent will be transformed into a giant theme park for American tourists interested in the quaint customs and manners of a distant time. The Europols could then charge admission to their press conferences and public appearances. Maybe American tourists could watch from behind see-through walls as Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder tucked into a meal fit for a Hapsburg.
During the entire Cold War most of Europe’s leaders were playing the role of Neville Chamberlain, admonishing America against its bellicosity. Even when Moscow sent troops into Hungary and Yugoslavia most of the Europols were more apprehensive about Washington’s “cowboy” reaction than about the Communist guns pointed their way. When President Ronald Reagan oversaw the final arms race that bankrupted the Soviet Union and won the Cold War they perceived only recklessness on Washington’s part. Just a year or so ago when President George W. Bush announced his plan to proceed with development of a defense system against incoming missiles the Europols expressed dismay that such an urgently-needed system might drive the Russians to undertake a new Cold War. The Russians’ annual military budget hovers at around $7 billion. Ours is in the neighborhood of $390 billion. Needless to say, the Russians took the President’s decision with equanimity.
The Europols will fasten upon any excuse to avoid following the only logical course towards Iraq, knocking out Saddam. They like their comforts and cannot imagine what Prime Minister Blair adumbrated this week, to wit, hijacked airplanes crashing into downtown Berlin, Paris, and London. The Europols’ complacency probably explains why the Bush administration has yet to announce that Osama bin Laden is a corpse. The revelation would but give Europe another excuse for inaction on Iraq.
I have been arguing for months that the worms of Tora Bora are treating the Rev. bin Laden as a crêpe suzette, and it is heartening to see my case gain support. The case was first made by the Arabist Mark Steyn in London’s Spectator. The gist of his case has been that the Islamic blabbermouth could not possibly remain silent for all these months. Moreover, with a $25 million price on his head and his army in retreat, even his mother might turn him in. In July the FBI’s chief counterterrorism expert joined our side, expressing his belief that the bearded cadaver was indeed a cadaver. Now it has been reported in the New York Times that commanders in our Special Operations units careening around dusty Afghanistan in pursuit of bin Laden are of the opinion “he died in a bombing raid on one of several caves that had been a target because American intelligence officials believed they housed Qaeda leaders.” The caves were in Tora Bora and the raids took place in December. I rest my case. Bon appetit to the worms.
I suppose there are two reasons for the Administration to refrain from reporting bin Laden dead. The first is as aforementioned, the Europeans leaders would conclude that the war on terrorism was won, pat themselves on the back for another splendid victory against tyranny, and get on with the good life. The other reason is that the European leaders might pronounce his death a human rights tragedy, rise up in indignation against American militarism, and get on with the good life. Either way Europe will remain inert. It is up to us and to the Brits to end Saddam’s nuclear, biological, and chemical threat, and to remind other tyrants in his neighborhood that those who want war will get it.